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SANTA FE – Santa Fe city councilors on Tuesday discussed something they haven’t been able to do for more than a year: meeting in person.
Since March 2020, Santa Fe city councilors have only viewed one another virtually, conducting Zoom meetings, which are broadcast online and on television.
The council is now considering different ways of slowly reintroducing public meetings. Many, though, expressed reservations about when and whether that can be done safely.
Multiple councilors said they wanted to see meetings potentially moved to the Santa Fe Convention Center, a larger space that could allow for more people to socially distance during meetings.
However, City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic told councilors a move to the Convention Center would disrupt their abilities to broadcast meetings on television and radio. Retrofitting the center to have broadcast capabilities could be prohibitively expensive, she said.
Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez expressed concern about having in-person meetings available to the public, as coronavirus is still spreading throughout the city.
“We still have community spread of COVID in the city,” Cassutt-Sanchez said. “That’s still something I still have concern about.”
Other councilors said it depends on how many people on the council have received COVID-19 vaccinations, with Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler calling on her colleagues to divulge their vaccination status. It’s unclear how many councilors have been vaccinated, although some revealed their status during Tuesday’s meeting.
“If we have some vaccine hesitancy among our group, then that does present some issues,” Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth said.
Other local governments, such as the Santa Fe County Commission, have already begun holding in-person meetings, while still broadcasting them online.
But, as Mayor Alan Webber told councilors, in-person meetings will eventually have to take place, one way or another.
“We’re going to have to be in person,” Webber said. “It’s not going to be an option.”